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Riyadh Air Base
2442'35"N 4643'31"E
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
2438'27"N 4646'22"E

Riyadh, which means "the gardens" in Arabic, is the capital of Saudi Arabia, located in the Central Province. In an advantageous location in the Hanifa valley, the city and surroundings are very green and boast many parks. Summers bring extreme heat and dryness, followed by mild winters and cool nights with occasional rain.

The United States Military Training Mission (USMTM) to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a joint training mission under the command of Headquarters, United States Central Command, (USCENTCOM) MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. The Chief of USMTM also serves as the United States Department of Defense Representative for Saudi Arabia. The USMTM Air Force Division has supporting detachments at Taif, Dhahran, Khamis Mushayt, and Jeddah. Personnel work directly with their RSAF Headquarters counterparts on all logistics, operational, and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) issues. In addition, E3A/KE-3A Extended Training Service Specialists (ETSS) personnel provide training and assistance to the RSAF in a variety of flying operations out of Riyadh Air Base. F-15 operations are supported by US Air Force personnel at Dhahran and Khamis Mushayt. RF-5 operations are supported at Taif, while C-130 operations are supported at Jeddah and Riyadh. Detachment Commanders (DETCO) serve as advisors to Saudi Air Base Area Chiefs and supervise ETSS personnel in the area.

KC-135 tankers and crews relocated from Riyadh Air Base to Prince Sultan following the Khobar Towers bombing. The relocation to Prince Sultan -- about 50 miles southeast of Riyadh -- will occur without interrupting Southern Watch operations. The move's purpose is force protection, and comes in the wake of the 25 June 1996 terrorist bombing at Khobar Towers which killed 19 airman and wounded many more.

Housing is not a problem in Riyadh. Service members and their families live on Eskan Village. Quarters are determined upon accompanied/unaccompanied status, availability at the time you arrive, and your assignment. Common use facilities within the compound include a swimming pool, tennis courts, recreation center, theater, racquetball court, library, and two clubs, which contain dining areas. A commissary, PX/BX and APO facility are also located on the compound. Movies are shown free of charge at a small outdoor theater on Eskan Village. There are no movie theaters on the Saudi economy.

Riyadh developed from an ancient walled city on the historical route between Iran and the Holy City of Mecca. The city lies 535 miles northeast of Jeddah on the Red Sea and 250 miles southwest of Dammam on the Arabian (Persian) Gulf. Riyadh was captured in 1902 by Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, who used it as a base for his conquest of the rest of the Arabian Peninsula. After the union of the Hejaz and Najd provinces established the Kingdom in 1932, great steps were taken in the expansion and modernization of Riyadh.

Following the ascension of King Saud Ibn Abdul Aziz to the throne in 1953 and the subsequent movement of government offices from Jeddah to Riyadh, large sums of money have been spent on the city. Roads have been paved, almost all of the old walled city has been demolished, and housing projects and new buildings for the various ministries have been completed. Riyadh is now a major commercial and financial center as well as the seat of government.

Present estimated population of Riyadh is about three million. The city is linked to the seaport in Damman by a railroad and to all parts of the Kingdom by an extensive network of fair to good roads. The national air carrier, Saudia, serves all major cities in the Kingdom and several international locations from Riyadh.

Riyadh was originally built near a source of water, as were all cities in the Kingdom. The center of the city -- the "souks" -- lies clustered near the original "wadi" where water was found. The city has expanded in every direction from the original city but generally to the north. New buildings, bridges and ditches appear overnight. The use of concrete in decorative and unusual architectural detail and form is intriguing -- often defying convention. The use of marble is common, some steel frame structures are being erected, and there is extensive use of glass, concrete and new-technology materials. Throughout the city, walls to provide privacy and protection surround homes (or villas).

The climate of Riyadh is much like that of the American Southwest. Summer clothes are worn most of the year, but some warm clothing is necessary for the winter months and for cold-weather travel out of the country. Although most entertaining is casual, there are occasional dressy functions and usually a formal dinner dance once a year. Bring a dress uniform (officers and enlisted). Off the compound, most wives wear an Abaya, which can be purchased at the women's souk (market).

They say you can find anything in Riyadh -- if you're willing to pay the price! Because of the high prices of imported goods -- and because you can't really find everything you can back home -- it is a good idea to bring an extra supply of particular items or brands you don't want to do without. Catalog sales are an excellent supplement for items that cannot be found locally. Food markets, snack shops, bakeries, and an increasing number of supermarkets are located within easy driving distance of the compound. Western clothes and shoes are expensive, and American styles are difficult to find. Quality children's clothes are also hard to find and are expensive. But such things as stereos, cameras, calculators, watches, gold, brass, silver, caftans, and embroidered blouses are excellent buys. Bargaining is expected in the souks, offering half of the requested price is a good starting point.



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